DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)

Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg; or, The Small Cardinal

Engraving, 148 x 97 mm
Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe

This engraving is one of six copper plate portraits of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg, one of the most influential representatives of the empire. This portrait is based on a preparatory drawing which presumably dates from the time of Dürer's stay at Augsburg during the Imperial Diet of 1518. In a letter to Georg Spalatin, an adviser of Frederick the Wise, Dürer reports the circumstances: "I am enclosing three prints of an engraving for my gracious lord. It was engraved upon the request of my gracious lord of Mainz. I sent the copper plate to him together with two hundred impressions as a present. He then sent me most kindly two hundred gold guilders in return and twenty ells of damask for a coat." The plate was used subsequently to illustrate the book Das Heiligtum zu Sachsen, Halle, 1524.

The portrayed man is placed before a screen. His erect posture, diagonal line of sight out of the picture, the coat of arms and the two inscriptions all emphasize the official nature of the portrait.

The inscription above the portrait reads: "Albrecht by Divine Mercy Presbyter Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, Titular of St. Chrysogonus, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, Primate Elector of the Empire, Administrator of Halberstadt, Margrave of Brandenburg." The legend on the bottom states: "Thus were his eyes, his cheeks, his features at the age of 29."

Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg was born on June 28, 1490. He became Archbishop of Magdeburg in 1513, Archbishop of Mainz in 1514 and Cardinal in 1518. In 1514 Jacob Fugger of the wealthy trading house of Augsburg had advanced 21,000 ducats to Albrecht in order to secure for him the Archbishopric of Mainz, which entailed the electorship. The Pope authorized the sale of indulgences to reimburse the Fuggers, provided one half of the proceeds was turned over to the Papal treasury. An agent of the Fuggers subsequently traveled in the Cardinal's retinue in charge of the cashbox. It was Albrecht who appointed the Dominican Tetzel and thus indirectly caused Luther to post his 95 theses on the church doors at Wittenberg:.